Electric Vehicles Can Lower Global Warming Emissions, Oil Consumption and Unhealthy Air Pollution

Increasing America’s use of plug-in electric and plug in hybrid cars would dramatically reduce emissions that cause global warming and air pollution and would curb our dependence on oil, according to a new white paper released today by Environment Texas.

“America’s current fleet of gasoline-powered cars and trucks leaves us dependent on oil, contributes to air pollution problems that threaten our health and produces large amounts of global warming pollution,” said Texas State Representative Rafael Anchia.

A “plug-in” car is one that can be recharged from the electric grid. Some plug-in cars run on electricity alone, while others are paired with small gasoline engines to create plug-in hybrids. Many plug-in hybrids can get over 100 miles per gallon, while plug-in electric vehicles consume no gasoline at all. Plug-in vehicles produce no direct tailpipe pollution when operating on electricity and there is already a vast electric power infrastructure to fuel them. As renewable energy sources, like wind and solar, meet a larger share of our electricity needs, electric car could contribute to little or no air pollution.

Utilities and retailers are gearing up for plug-in vehicles so they will be ready to provide the necessary services to their customers when cars start arriving later this year.

"We are on the cusp of an historic shift in the way we use energy for transportation," said Jim Burke, CEO, TXU Energy. "Increasing the use of electric vehicles is vitally important for Texas, for our community, and for our customers – so it’s vitally important to us as well. We are working to help lead this shift, including developing time-of-use rates that will help our customers benefit from cheaper night time charging."

“The current electric system has the capacity to fuel up to 73 percent of American vehicles without building another power plant by charging vehicles at night or using solar panels by day,” said McCall Johnson, Clean Energy Advocate, Environment Texas. “However, the nation will need to clean up its electric grid to reap the full environmental potential benefits of plug-in cars.”

"Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles offer a way to utilize our state’s natural resources and minimize gas consumption and cost," said Phil Wilson, Luminant’s Senior Vice President for Public Affairs. "They are great for Texas, reduce mobile point source emissions and are truly one more step toward energy independence," Wilson added.

The technology needed to build workable plug-in vehicles exists today, and plug-ins have several advantages over gasoline-powered cars including the fact that they require far less regular maintenance and no oil changes. "I think that electric vehicles are the future of neighborhood and commuter transportation. Electric vehicles are green, quiet, and eliminate trips to gas station," said David Oberlander, a current electric vehicle driver. "Best of all, they are fun to drive."

Air quality is of particular concern in the DFW area, and "the North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTCOG) is supportive of advanced fuels and technology to improve air quality in the Dallas-Fort Worth region," said Jenny Danieau of NCTCOG.

Plug-in Cars: Powering America Toward a Cleaner Future answers many questions about plug-in vehicles and lays out a strategy for how to increase the number of electric vehicles on the road. It highlights data from existing research to show that electric vehicles can help to improve Americans’ standards of living. The key points of the paper include the following:

* Powering a car on electricity would result in 93 percent less smog-forming volatile organic compounds and 31 percent less nitrogen oxide emissions than powering a car on gasoline.[1]
* If half of the light vehicles in the United States were electric vehicles powered by completely clean electricity in 2030, total fleet emissions would be reduced by 62 percent. [2]
* If three-fourths of American vehicles, including cars, pick-up trucks, SUVs and vans, were electric, oil use would be reduced by about one-third.[3]

“Environment Texas urges our state and local officials to fully harness the power of plug-ins by setting clean car standards, offering financial incentives for buyers of plug-in vehicles, creating a low-carbon fuel standard that allows plug-ins to contribute to lowering global warming emissions, promoting renewable energy and adopting ‘smart grid’ technologies that would allow plug-ins to help stabilize the electric grid,” said Johnson.

“And lastly, Environment Texas urges the Senate – and Senators Hutchison and Cornyn here in Texas – to pass a comprehensive energy and global warming bill that, among other key steps, encourages the development and deployment of plug-in vehicles and other clean energy technologies,” Johnson concluded.

Environment Texas is a state-based, citizen-funded environmental organization working for clean air, clean water, and open space.

[1] Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, 2007

[2] University of California, Berkley, 2009

[3] Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, 2007